Date: Sun, 08 Nov 1998 14:19:00 +1100
From: Jonathan Clarke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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To: "Glenn R. Morton" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Genesis and Predictions
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Glenn R. Morton wrote:
> At 09:03 AM 11/8/98 +1100, Jonathan Clarke wrote:
> >This is getting close to a thin end of the wedge approach. "If we can't take
> >Genesis as history, we can't take Exodus as history, if not Exodus then....."
> So? I don't think you would believe the Bible if absolutely nothing in the
> OT were verified. If there were no Hittites, no Babylonians, no Egyptians,
> no Israelites, no Jerusalem etc. Why would you then believe an otherwise
> false book? Fideism? Under those circumstances, you would, of course, think
> it fiction and then you too would use the wedge approach. Do you believe
> in Middle Earth and hobbits? Of course not. There is no physical evidence
> of their existence. You have used the wedge approach on the Rings Trilogy.
> But if you say, "Hey Tolkein wrote that book I know it is fiction.' OK,
> what about Beowulf? We don't really know who composed that story and there
> is no evidence of Grindel so the application applies.
> >In the end it is the context which decides whether we take a Biblical passage
> >as history, as allegory, as symbol, or as some other form of literature.
> >Context is a difficult guide, which is why exegetes argue so much! But
> >the range of literary styles in genesis alone! structured prose, poetry,
> >genealogy, and narrative. Each requires its own hermeneutic.
> So, is the Exodus allegory? Is Abraham allegory?
As a matter of fact I consider both passages to be narrative rather than
allegory. I do know people who would argue they are saga rather than
chronicle. Did the story of the prodigal son actually happen? Does it matter if
it did not? I would say it does not, because it is a story, not history. We know
that it is a story from the context. We must interpret history as history, saga
as saga, poetry as poetry, and so forth.
> >The alternative is to read the Bible as if it were written in English at the
> >end of the 20th century according to our standards of writing , which is to
> >force the Bible into our mould, rather than letting it speak for itself.
> I have sat in a room with lots of Bibles. I never heard even one of them
> speaking for itself. Can I come to your house and listen to your Bibles?
Don't you have talking books is the US? Our local library has shelves of them!
Alas, my Bibles are all mute, if you want me to be literal, but I was using a
One problem in discussions of this sort is that we tend to misuse the word
"literal". The literal meaning is the actual meaning intended by the author. It
does not (or should not) imply that a material meaning is the best or only reading
of a passage. What is the literal meaning of the Song of Solomon, the parable of
the sower, the parable of the good Samaritan? It is the purpose of the exegete to
discover how this meaning is expressed, what it is, and how it should be applied.